Championing Mental Health: Jen Hyatt of Big White Wall

JenHyatt

Jen Hyatt of Big White Wall will give a keynote presentation at the 2014 mHealth Summit.

Jen Hyatt is the founder and CEO of Big White Wall, a digital service providing mental health support to individuals and private access to clinicians. The service has been successful in the UK and launched in the U.S. this year. Hyatt has received numerous award,s including being named a Disruptive Woman to Watch in Healthcare this year. She’ll soon head to the 2014 mHealth Summit in Washington D.C., where she’ll present a keynote about mental health and digital potential. We caught up with Hyatt to talk about founding Big White Wall and the digital landscape.

Where did the idea for Big White Wall come from? 

The idea for Big White Wall came from hearing some numbers that shocked me: one in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lives, but only 75% of these receive any treatment. Big White Wall was designed to provide easy access to support and high-quality therapeutic interventions, using digital technology to make services available 24/7.

The name Big White Wall comes from:

  • Big: human emotion is infinite
  • White: we all need an unmediated blank canvas
  • Wall: it can provide shelter and support and it is also something we sometimes need to break through

I founded Big White Wall in 2007. It drives patient engagement because it’s easy to access and provides instant 24/7 support. It also engages people through the power of peers, who are all anonymous and share what they are going through, decreasing stigma and normalizing the experience of distress, mental illness and the struggles we all go through but often try to hide.

We know you’re attending the mHealth Summit in December and we’re excited to hear you speak. But first, a big question: How will mHealth change mental health care? 

Conventional methods of addressing poor mental health cannot meet the volume of demand – they don’t meet people’s needs. We see this crisis in lack of treatment, barriers to access, high costs and the pain caused by a lack of support for mental health. Only now, with the growth of digital technology and online social networks, do we have the potential to truly transform mental health care with the support of online communities and a broad choice of support and recovery tools. Now no one has to struggle alone.

It’s also only now (with mHealth) that we can deliver health care to people wherever and whenever they experience the need for support. Physicians, too, can benefit from reaching their patients more easily and flexibly, and from knowing that they can offer digital and mobile tools to support their patients 24/7.

This won’t happen over night, though. The greatest challenge is convincing those in healthcare not to cling to what they’ve always done, to leave the comfort of routine and embrace the powerful new health care revolution that digital and mobile technologies are creating.

Tell us about your keynote presentation at the mHealth Summit. What key points will you touch on?

In my talk, I plan to illustrate the hidden human and financial costs of poor mental health. I will question how currently 75% go without treatment and how heavily the system is skewed towards mental illness and not mental health. Looking at how this plays out for employers, amongst veterans, with college students and in health systems, I will show how digital tools can transform the landscape of mental healthcare.

My main point during my keynote will be that data analysis will make the biggest impact towards making mental health services accessible and personalized to all those with a smartphone – whilst the Internet of Things will forever shift the need to say how you feel, because the people and objects around you will simply know and respond.

Hear Jen Hyatt speak at the 2014 mHealth Summit (which she calls “the event to attend to learn anything and everything going on in the mobile health space – to keep informed, get ahead and discover new solutions”), on December 7-11, 2014 in Washington D.C. Register here.

Jenni Whalen

Jenni Whalen

    Jenni Whalen is the Executive Assistant of Editorial at Upworthy. She was previously MedTech Boston's Managing Editor and has an MS in Journalism from Boston University, as well as a BA in Psychology from Bucknell University. Whalen has written for Greatist, Boston magazine, AZ Central Healthy Living and the New England Journal of Medicine, among other places. She has also worked as a conference planner, ghost writer, researcher and content developer.

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